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Warm weather in the last week has continued to melt snow and ice on lakes and rivers. Only the far northern tier of counties are reporting any measurable snow remaining, with up to 8 inches still some shaded woody areas of the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, but even there most south facing slopes are bare.
The unseasonably warm temperatures of the last couple of weeks resulted in an increase in fire danger. High to Very High fire danger resulted in the suspension of burning permits in 50 Wisconsin counties over the past week. So far in March, 53 wildfires have burned 164 acres in DNR Protection Areas, with debris burning the leading cause of fires. People can stay aware of fire danger and burning permit requirements by checking searching the DNR website for 'fire danger' or calling 1-888-WISBURN. Information is updated each day at 11 am.
Ice conditions continue to deteriorate, with many major river systems opening. The Chippewa, Wolf and much of the Wisconsin rivers are open, as is the south fork of the Flambeau with the north fork not far behind. Northern lakes still have a foot or more of ice but it has turned honeycombed and gray. Many lakes have developed patches of open water near inlets, access areas and along south-facing shores.
The weather provided optimum conditions for early catch and release trout fishing. Trout streams in central and southwestern Wisconsin are nearly completely free of ice and levels look great for catch and release fishing, with not much run off due to lack of snow cover.
Anglers are continuing to fish Green Bay, with some success for northern pike along the west shore and whitefish along Door County. The Fox River at Voyageur Park has opened up and anglers were out in good numbers looking to catch some early season walleye. Walleye angles were also fishing the Menominee, Wolf and Lower Wisconsin with some success. Southern Lake Michigan tributaries are beginning to open and anglers were catching some brown trout on the Milwaukee River and some rainbows on Oak Creek.
Black bears are being seen in increasing numbers. Snowshoe hares have been easy to spot because they have not made their change in color yet. Turkeys are gobbling like crazy on sunny mornings and toms are being seeing strutting. The 103,516 remaining permits for the 2015 spring turkey hunting season will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis starting Monday, March 23 at 10 a.m. Leftover permits will be first issued for sale by zone, one zone per day - each zone will have a designated sales date.
Maples are tapped and sap is running and maple syrup enthusiasts are tapping trees.
Diving duck numbers are just starting to build on southern lakes that are beginning to open up. Southern counties are reporting peenting American woodcock. Early March migrants have all arrived including blackbirds, robins, bluebirds, song sparrows and Eastern meadowlarks. Lots of bird song now from resident birds including mourning doves, cardinals, tufted titmouse, nutchatches, woodpeckers and chickadees.
Unseasonably warm temperatures resulted in widespread snow melt this month, causing an increase in fire danger with the loss of ground moisture and abundance of dry, dead foliage, grass and fallen leaves. High to Very High fire danger resulted in the suspension of burning permits in 50 Wisconsin counties over the past week. So far in March, 53 wildfires have burned 164 acres in DNR Protection Areas. Debris burning was the leading cause of fires this week (23 fires). The largest fire of the week was a 45-acre Iowa County wildfire; the cause of that fire is under investigation. With the nicer weather, homeowners are performing annual clean-up around their properties, including the burning of leaves and brush debris. Debris burning is the leading cause of wildfires, especially this time of year. It's important to remember that burning is not your only option. There are many alternatives to burning such as composting or leaving brush in the woods for wildlife to enjoy. The best practice is to not burn at all or to wait until surrounding vegetation greens-up in the summer. Always obtain proper permits and follow the rules of the day when conducting an outdoor burn. You can stay aware of fire danger and burning permit requirements by checking our web site dnr.wi.gov (search 'fire danger') or calling 1-888-WISBURN. Information is updated each day at 11 am. Fire season is just beginning. On average, the 1,500 wildfires burn in DNR protection areas each year and another estimated 2,500 wildfires burn in parts of the state where fire departments are the primary responders.
Firewise Tip: Keep the area 3 to 5 feet around your home "fuel free." Remove anything in this area that can burn, such as leaves, plants, mulch, or piled wood. This includes the areas under and around decks and porches.
Statewide Birding Report
Southern counties are getting their first good push of waterfowl. It's dry out there but any sheet-water ponds in agricultural fields are hosting geese, ducks and some tundra swans. Diving duck numbers are just starting to build on southern lakes that are beginning to open up. Southern counties are reporting peenting American woodcock. Early March migrants have all arrived including blackbirds, robins, bluebirds, song sparrows and Eastern meadowlarks. Lots of bird song now from resident birds including mourning doves, cardinals, tufted titmouse, nutchatches, woodpeckers and chickadees. Birders are reminded that we are in the first year of the Second Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas. Birders can learn more about the atlas and enter their breeding bird observations by going to: ebird.org/content/atlaswi (exit DNR). - Andy Paulios, wildlife biologist, Fitchburg
Ashland DNR Service Center area
Amnicon Falls State Park - While hiking at Amnicon Falls, snowshoe hares have been easy to spot because they have not made their change in color yet. All the waterfalls at Amnicon Falls are flowing. With the warm temperatures this past weekend, the park was getting a crowd, great to see! - Jacob Anderson, Ranger
Pattison State Park - The snow around the Superior area is pretty much gone. All that remains is the remnants of snow piles. Area lakes remain ice covered and a few fisherman were spotted over the weekend. Water is pooling on top of the ice making for sloppy and difficult travel. We received a report of the first black bear sighting in the Superior area just a short distance from Pattison State Park. We also spotted the first chipmunk of the year. All the waterfalls at Pattison are flowing. With the warmer temperatures and sun this past weekend, the park was very busy, which was nice to see. - Jacob Anderson, Ranger
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - With the recent spring thaw, ice conditions have quickly deteriorated and lakes across the Northwoods are down to just 10 to 12 inches of soft and honeycombed ice. Many lakes have developed patches of open water near inlets, access areas and along south-facing shores and the larger lakes have seen large areas of honeycombed ice that can quickly becoming unsafe for any kind of travel. Colder temperatures in the last few days have firmed up the ice cover - but conditions can change within hours on warm and sunny days. As such, the ice should be considered extremely hazardous and any late season anglers should be very cautious. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - Snowmobile and ski trails are closed for the season. Lake of the Pines campground will open April 15 and Connors Lake campground will open Thursday at noon before Memorial Weekend. There's open water on the south fork of the Flambeau River and the north fork is not too far behind with a few spots starting to open up. Nature conditions or observations: Spring has finally sprung on the forest. We have had some warmer temps bringing out the snow fleas, raccoons, skunks and porcupines. Local maple syrup enthusiasts are tapping trees and we are hearing turkeys gobbling. We still have a bit of snow left where it was banked, but we are mostly seeing bare earth. - Judy Freeman, visitor services associate
Woodruff DNR Service Center area
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - We are officially in "spring breakup" weather on the forest. It is a great time to hike in the area just to observe the landscape before the "green wall" appears. Cold nights will give the hiker a chance to walk on top of swamps in the morning, but may be in for wet feet if they venture out in the afternoon. The birds are starting to find their voices and an occasional raccoon can be seen walking around bewildered at night. Other wildlife sightings: chipmunks, brown creepers and two still white coated snowshoe hares crossing the road. There is bare ground on south facing slopes and all snowmobile trails are closed. There is still 2-8 inches of snow on the average in the woods with less snow on the southern half of the forest. Hiking the woods is now possible with hard crust in the morning but soft granular snow in the warmer afternoon temperatures. Now may be a good time to look for whitetail deer antler sheds. Lakes have lost ice, and the snow on top is melting fast. It would be a good idea to stop driving vehicles on lakes. The time has arrived to start wearing floatation, bring ice picks and rope if not for you, then possibly, to help someone else. Enlarged ice holes and otter breathing holes can be hazardous to ice anglers even when the surrounding ice is in good shape. Firewood gatherers, with permits of course, have until April 30 to harvest downed trees within the campgrounds on the forest. There is still a lot of stuff lying on the ground from hazard tree clean-up last fall. We are still looking for a couple of volunteer campground hosts for this summer. Contact Joe Fieweger at 715-385-3355 ext 113 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the available host opportunities. - Kimberly Krawczyk, Visitor Services Associate
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
This past week saw warm temperatures, which brought many anglers out on the ice. However, this same warm weather caused severe deterioration of ice in most locations. So be extremely cautions if venturing out onto the ice this late in the season and always check local conditions. In some locations the open water fishing season has begun. - David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay
Marinette County - Anglers were catching pike in 4 to 8 feet of water from Thompson Park to north of the Peshtigo Harbor using large shiner minnows and smelt in the round, while some anglers fishing in 15 feet of water out of the mouth of the Peshtigo River were having some success with walleye using jigs tipped with minnows. The Dam in Peshtigo is now releasing water with one gate partially open. As of Sunday March 15 the River mouth and the Bay ice has become black and unsafe for travel. The dam at Menominee has two gates partially open and open water fishing has begun. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Oconto County - A few pike were being caught from Oconto Breakwater to Oconto Park II this past week using tip-ups with large shiner minnows or smelt in the round. By Sunday the landings have turned to mud and water and large sections of black ice permeate the Bay. Some very small perch were being caught in the landing at Oconto Park II (perch season closed March 15). - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Brown County - Many anglers are still hitting the ice to take advantage of the warm temperatures and remaining ice. The access to the bay at Dyckesville is closed due to unstable ice. Many anglers have moved to Red River to continue fishing. Anglers here have been having moderate success for whitefish, with most catching 3 to 5 per person. The ice at Chaudoir's Dock was very slushy and cracks could be seen not far off shore. Bayshore park activity picked up this past week with many vehicles seen. Most anglers were using a typical whitefish setup with a waxy. The Fox River at Voyageur Park has opened up and anglers looking to catch some early season walleye have mobbed the Park. - Emily Kurszewski, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay
Door County - Anglers at Lime Kiln Road were still catching low numbers of whitefish using waxies and swedish pimples. Anglers were also fishing late into the evening close to shore for walleye. Many anglers were seen at Big Rock Place over the weekend. Anglers off of Clafins reported moderate results for whitefish but spotty ice conditions. There was a report of an angler falling through some thin ice near some weeds off of Clafins. Anglers continue to do well out of Sand Bay for whitefish with many limits reported. At Cabot's Point anglers took to the ice in hopes of catching a walleye in the late evening hours, but no interviews were conducted. Sugar Creek remains busy with low catches for most anglers with some limits being reported. There is a dark line in the ice that can be seen from shore and most anglers are staying inside that area. - Emily Kurszewski, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay
Peshtigo DNR Service Center area
Marinette County - Maples are tapped and sap is running. Red winged blackbirds and Sandhill cranes made it back to Peshtigo over the weekend and were seen in the Wausaukee area on Wednesday. A few hardy landscape plants (i.e. Iris) are popping up on the south sides of houses. Frost is still hanging on where there is leaf cover, so no spring ephemerals have been seen in the woods yet. The ice conditions on local lakes is deteriorating and looking pretty gray. Fire season is upon us so be sure to get a permit before burning anything. A few anglers were fishing open water below the Peshtigo dam, but the flowage above the dam is still locked up with ice. Several fishermen are trying for shallow water pike on the bay. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee
Green Bay DNR Service Center area
Peninsula State Park - Spring like conditions exist throughout the park, watch for wet/icy/slippery areas. Bike trails are currently closed. Bikes are only allowed on park roads at this time. - Jane Barnowsky, visitor services associate
Whitefish Dunes State Park - Recent warm temperatures have melted most of the snow and it is starting to look like spring. Winter trails have patches of snow and ice in the shady areas which may be icy and many spots that may be muddy as trails are soft at this time. The best place to walk at this time would be along the beach shoreline. With the warmer weather lots of wildlife sightings such as sandhill cranes flying overhead, a pair of eagles along the shoreline, porcupines curled up on the tall tree branches, red-bellied woodpeckers, pileated woodpeckers and downy woodpeckers at the bird feeders by the park office. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - Robins, sandhill cranes, mallards and northern harriers have all returned. Snow is 95 percent gone and frost is out in many places. Trout streams are nearly completely free of ice and levels look great for catch and release fishing. Not much run off due to lack of snow cover. Wolf River is partially open and some people have been out fishing, no reports as to whether they were successful or not. All lakes in the area are still ice covered with as much as 30 inches of ice reported in places, but ice is honeycombed and looking bad. We are in an in-between period, little open water and bad ice. Turkeys are gobbling like crazy on sunny mornings. Deer are feeding heavily in corn and soybean stubble fields. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Waushara County - The warm temps have made for some enjoyable spring cleanup the past week, but it also melted and dried out most of the moisture we had in the soil. Fire dangers are still very high at this point with only limited burning allowed and that is still cautioned. Remember everyone out there make sure you get your burning permit if needed and CALL every day after 11 a.m. to check to see what the current restrictions are at 1-888-947-2876. The early trout season has been slow with only a few anglers taking advantage of it at this point. The fish are slow too at this point. Ice fishing had been pretty good on late ice, but with the warm sunny and windy days the ice while it may still be thick is questionable at best. Most lakes are honeycombed on the surface which is a sure sign of bad ice. The shorelines are starting to melt and break up too. Extreme caution is advised if you decide to venture out, have a plan, let someone know where you are going, bring your ice picks, and bring a cell phone. Remember they are just fish - you can catch them out of a boat this spring too. The geese and sandhill cranes are making their way back to their wetlands as the ice recedes. Reports of turkeys gobbling and tom turkeys strutting is a sure sign that the spring is here and soon turkey season will be too. The flocks are starting to break up and they will be moving into their spring feeding and mating patterns so it's time to start scouting for those early or youth seasons! Other migration notes: Robins have been coming back in a big way, cardinals have been starting to sign from the tree tops, and rough-legged hawks have been seen heading back north to their mating grounds. - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma
Oshkosh DNR Service Center area
Winnebago County - Even though there is still ice on many lakes and some rivers, boating season is really a hop, skip and a jump away. Now is the time people should be getting their boats out for a pre-season inspection. Making sure the registration is valid or get the boat registered, which should occur before the boat is put on the water. Checking for safety equipment such as lifejackets and a fire extinguisher and making sure they are in serviceable and working condition. Being prepared for the boating season is the best way to prevent an undesired accident or boat problems, and can be prevented in most cases by being prepared. - Jason Higgins, conservation warden, Oshkosh
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee
Sheboygan County - In Sheboygan anglers fishing from the docks in Deland Marina report catching a few rainbows and browns. Anglers working off the south pier have been catching 12 to 18 inch brown trout while soaking minnows near the bottom. The Sheboygan River is open below Eighth Street, but most areas farther upstream still have ice. Boats launching at the Eighth Street Ramp have been returning with a few small brown trout. The Pigeon River is opening up in many stretches, but there are still floating chunks of ice scattered throughout the river. The Pigeon is still frozen over downstream near the wayside at Highway LS.
Ozaukee County - Port Washington anglers fishing near the power plant discharge have been catching a few small rainbows. Spawn sacs remain the most effective bait, but a couple of fish were also taken on small spoons. Sauk Creek is free of ice, but fishing pressure has been low. The boat ramp in Port is open and usable.
Milwaukee County - In Milwaukee the lower Milwaukee River and the majority of the harbor remain free of ice. Boats launching from Riverfront Ramp report catching browns and a few lake trout while jigging Gulp and casting crank baits in the main and south gaps. The ice has melted near the launch at McKinley, but 90 percent of the marina remained ice covered as of Sunday. South Shore Ramp is open, and only a few small ice floes were in the area. The launch at Bender Park is also open, and trollers fishing near the Oak Creek Power Plant have been averaging three brown trout per trip, with most fish being caught on small spoons and crank baits. Milwaukee shore anglers fishing behind Summerfest have been catching a few browns on minnows or roaches under slip bobbers, but fishing has been slow overall. Anglers have still been ice fishing in the lagoon at Lakeshore State Park, and they report 10-12 inches of ice toward the center of the lagoon with thinner areas along shore. Ice anglers have been catching a mix of browns and rainbows while fishing with minnows or spawn sacs under tip ups. Anglers fishing Oak Creek in Grant Park have been catching a few steelhead here and there, and most have been taken on spawn sacs or skein under slip bobbers. The Oak Creek Parkway is closed to motor vehicle traffic, so anglers have to walk to access much of Oak Creek. The fishing pier at the Oak Creek Power Plant remains closed due to the buildup of ice on the pier. The new projected opening date is April 1.
Racine County - Racine anglers have been out in decent numbers early in the morning, when they report having the best success getting bites. Parties have landed a few brown and rainbow trout along the north pier, getting bites on a variety of spoons and spinners. The harbor water was clear and cold over the weekend. The Root River Steelhead Facility should be up and running in the next week or so; please check back for updates on our fish spawning schedule throughout the spring season.
Kenosha County - In Kenosha there is still ice near Simmons Island marina, but there is open water on the south end of the harbor. Anglers were out in decent numbers over the weekend fishing around the harbor, with most anglers soaking minnows and others trying crank baits.
Waukesha DNR Service Center area
Waukesha County - Sandhill cranes, redwing blackbirds, robins, waterfowl, and killdeer have all been heard or seen recently on wildlife areas. Crews are gearing up for prescribed burn season. Burning is used for brush control, to remove heavy duff, and rejuvenate desirable vegetation. Gobblers have been seen strutting in ag fields. - Kelly VanBeek, wildlife biologist, Waukesha
Plymouth DNR Service Center area
Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - The ice is mostly gone on the river, flowages and main pool at Theresa Marsh Wildlife Area and other wetlands, and waterfowl and other birds have started showing up including Canada geese, sandhill cranes, and many species of diving and dabbling ducks and other birds. A pair of bald eagles has been very active around their nest at the north end of Theresa Marsh. The Pike Lake Wildlife Management crew along with the Plymouth crew and trained volunteers will begin prescribed burning next week around the area, weather permitting. Twenty-nine possible burns totaling about 850 acres are planned for our area this spring, including sites on Theresa, Allenton and Jackson Marsh Wildlife Areas, the Pike Lake Unit and Harrington Beach State Park in Ozaukee County. Several are "warm season grass" fields (prairies) and several other burns on drawn down impoundments along Hwy. 28 and upstream from the Theresa Marsh dam. Some of the marsh areas are burned to remove cattails killed by helicopter herbicide treatments last summer to promote more open water and more desirable wetland vegetation. This week we lowered the two floating boat ramps at the Theresa Marsh dam and re-installed the floating debris barrier upstream from the dam. The water level in the marsh is currently low, but will be raised after burning is complete. The warmer weather and longer days has led to increased deer movements and more frequent car-deer collisions. During the past couple weeks we have been collecting "post-winter health assessment" samples of car-killed deer and we are almost done with that effort. We assess health growth rate, and we also look at pregnancy rates of yearling and adult does. Preliminary indications are the deer in our area came through the winter in very good shape. The Washington and Ozaukee "County Deer Advisory Committee" meetings are next week. The public is encouraged to attend the meetings to provide input on deer quota recommendations. The Washington County CDAC meeting is at 7 p.m., March 24 at the Daniel Boone Conservation League club house. The Ozaukee CDAC meeting is at 7 p.m., March 25 at Riveredge Nature Center. Type "CDAC" in the search box of the DNR website for more information. Left-over spring turkey permits go on sale beginning at 10 a.m., March 23 for Zone 1, and on March 24 for Zone 2. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford
Racine County - The department has been carrying out timber stand improvements on the Honey Creek Wildlife Area in Racine County. The forestry and wildlife programs have been mowing invasive brush (i.e., buckthorn, honeysuckle, etc.) in the woodland areas and later this summer will do spot herbicide treatments on re-sprouting brush. The purpose of the mowing is to help the regeneration of mast producing trees (i.e., oak, hickory, etc.) and to improve access for a future timber harvest on portions of the property. The invasive brush that is being mowed form dense thickets that prevent the regeneration of trees that produce mast that a variety of wildlife eats. The main focus of the mowing occurring off of Academy Road and Hwy. W is for timber harvest preparation, with additional wildlife habitat benefits. The timber harvest's purpose is a thinning: removing select trees to reduce stand density and accelerate the growth of the remaining trees. The mowing done north of Oak Knoll Road is a continuation of invasive brush removal project. The wildlife program plans to conduct a prescribe burn in that woodland area this spring and to do tree planting in the future. - Marty Johnson, wildlife biologist, Sturtevant
Richard Bong State Recreation Area - Trails are open depending on trail conditions, please call 262-878-5600 for availability. As of March 16, 2015 the horse trails are closed due to very wet trail conditions. Please ride responsibly to not degrade the trails. As of March 16, 2015 the bike trails north of Hwy. 142 are closed due to very wet trail conditions.
South Central Region
Dodgeville DNR Service Center area
Richland County - Weather in the area provided optimum conditions for early catch and release trout fishing. Turkeys were strutting and gobbling in full force as many hunters prepare for the upcoming seasons. - Michael Nice, conservation warden, Richland Center
Horicon DNR Service Center area
Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area - Spring has arrived in Dodge County along with many of our returning migrants. Sandhill cranes, Canada geese, red-winged blackbirds and even a pair of whooping cranes have recently been sighted in the area. Now is a great time to clean and fill your feeders as hungry migrant songbirds begin to pass through the area. Maple sap has been running with the warm days and cool nights. Area wildlife personnel are busy conducting early spring prescribed burns. Due to favorable ice and weather conditions, crews on the state end of Horicon Marsh were able to burn nearly 4,000 acres of cattails. As the ice melts, it will expose valuable mudflats for shorebirds to dine in. These newly burned areas will also open up areas that muskrats can move into, helping to open up pockets of water within the dense cattail stands. - Jennifer Wirth, visitor services specialist
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Columbia County - Most of the migratory fowl have made their way back to Columbia County. The Wisconsin River is open now with access at most of the boat launches between Hooker's Resort and the Dells. Walleyes are being caught with several tag returns coming in to the office in Poynette. Deer and turkey are taking advantage of the relative warm weather this past week. - Paul Nadolski, conservation warden, Portage
MacKenzie Center - Maple sap is running at the center in Poynette! So far we've tapped about 50 trees and have about 70 or so more to go before our Maple Festival on April 4. The non-releasable wildlife in our wildlife area are enjoying the sunshine of spring. - Chrystal Seeley-Schreck, Natural Resources Educator, Mackenzie Center
Mirror Lake State Park -Trails are open for hiking; however, there is still a scattering of snow and ice as well as muddy areas around the park. All trails with the exception of the Hastings loop are open and passable. Bike trails remain closed for the season. They will re-open May 1, weather and condition permitting. - Becky Green, park manager
West Central Region
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - Just like clockwork, numerous bird species that are short-distance migrants recently arrived back in the area. Red-winged blackbirds, grackles, and robins have arrived in droves, while lesser numbers of killdeer, bluebirds, and eastern meadowlarks have filled in the gaps. Short-distance migrants respond more to weather clues, so they can gradually move northward as weather improves. Long-distance migrants depend on changes in day length to trigger their migration. It is believed that short-distance migrants can get a jump on resources and outcompete long-distance migrants that arrive later in a region. The bluff prairies affronting the Mississippi River are snow-free. As spring advances, there will be a continual wildflower bloom display all the way into fall. Early season dry prairie flowers include pasque flower, shooting stars, and spiderwort. The Rush Creek State Natural Area near Ferryville is a great place to find these wonderful spring prairie flowers. The outstanding feature of Rush Creek is a two-mile long series of dry lime prairies situated on the steep southwest facing limestone-capped bluffs of the Mississippi River. These "goat prairies," named for their steep, rocky terrain, are part of the most extensive dry prairie remnants left in the state. While most Wisconsin prairies were lost to the plow or development, Rush Creek's steepness and dry southwestern exposure are largely responsible for its preservation. More information about Rush Creek SNA may be found on the DNR website. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Black River Falls DNR Service Center area
Black River State Forest - Spring is a great time to visit the forest. Trees are starting to bud, spring migrants, such as sandhill cranes, are returning and mosquitoes have not yet hatched. Porcupine, turkey, deer, eagles, and red-tailed hawks are just some of the wildlife seen lately around the forest. Hiking trails are open but may be wet and muddy in some places. Camping is available at the Pigeon Creek and Castle Mound campgrounds. Temperatures are expected to be slightly cooler this weekend with highs in the low 40s. Cross-country ski trails are no longer skiable, but the trails are now open to hikers and bikers. ATV trails are closed. They will reopen May 15. Castle Mound and Pigeon Creek campgrounds are open on a first-come, first-served basis. East Fork campground and the outdoor group camp will reopen April 15. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate
Eau Claire DNR Service Center area
Red Cedar State Trail - Wildlife activity has really increased throughout Dunn County after last week's warm spell. Black bears are being seen as well as migrating birds such as sandhill cranes. Spring snow melt is about at peak as the both the Chippewa and Red Cedar river water levels came up a couple of feet over the weekend. Water levels expect to remain well below flood stage but there is plenty of debris to be concerned about if planning a boat trip. Ice is completely gone from both rivers and anglers are taking advantage of early season walleye fishing below the dam in Menomonie. Late season ice fishing is very good but ice conditions have deteriorated quickly on most lakes. Make sure to call ahead at the local baits shops for recent ice reports. People have begun pulling out their bikes and riding the paved section of the Chippewa River Trail as all the ice has disappeared and maintenance staff have cleared the accumulated debris from over the wintertime. The Red Cedar Trail still remains impassable in a few locations due to the spring thaw. Maintenance staff expect to grade the trail in the next couple of weeks, dependent on weather. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger
Wausau DNR Service Center area
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Buckhorn State Park - The group camp gate is closed until road thaws and dries out. Drinking water is available at the park office next to the restroom. Pit toilets are open throughout the park and stickers required at boat launch parking lots/picnic areas. Ice is opening up around the Buckhorn Bridge. The lake is still in draw down so piers will not be placed until the lake is back to normal level. Trails may be muddy as frost is leaving the ground. We currently have high fire danger with little rain in the forecast. If camping, make sure fires are not left unattended and that they are completely out before leaving. Piers will be out end of April/beginning of May depending on water levels. Looking for camp hosts in June! Mark your calendars for the annual work and play day, Saturday, April 25 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. - Heather Wolf, park manager
Roche-A-Cri State Park - Warmer weather is melting snow off trails and roads. Trails may be muddy with thawing ground. Roche-A-Cri is looking for camp hosts for the summer and fall! Mark your calendars for the annual work and play day, Saturday, May 2 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
- Heather Wolf, park manager